Paterson's Lawyer Dismisses Ethics Allegations as "Half-Baked"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    New York Gov. David Paterson

    The lawyer for Gov. David Paterson said Tuesday that e-mails undermine a state ethics board's probe that accuses the governor of violating a gift ban by seeking and obtaining World Series tickets last year from the Yankees.

    In a letter, Paterson's attorney, Theodore V. Wells Jr., dismissed the accusations by the state Public Integrity Commission as ``half-baked.'' He says e-mails unseen or ignored by the commission's investigators show staffers discussing the tickets and an offer by the Yankees for playoff tickets. Paterson reportedly declined those tickets, but told the Yankees he'll take them when they inevitably reach the World Series.

    The commission responded Tuesday that Wells' letter doesn't contest findings of reasonable cause that Paterson violated the gift ban. A state ethics law prohibits state officials from accepting gifts from entities that lobby the state, which includes the Yankees.

    The head of the state Commission on Public Integrity Michael Cherkasky insisted, "Mr. Wells' letter does not contest the commission's determination that there is reasonable cause to believe that the governor violated the gift ban and did not testify truthfully."

    The letter was first reported by The Daily News.

    The commission also stated it found some evidence that Paterson lied about the tickets and referred that to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Albany County District Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution. Cuomo's office, under former Chief Judge Judith Kaye after Cuomo recused himself, is investigating. In the first incident, the attorney general's office is investigating whether Paterson illegally contacted a woman who had accused a Paterson aide, David Johnson, of domestic violence on Oct. 31, just days after the Yankees game Paterson attended with Johnson, another staffer, Paterson's son and his friend. The woman later dropped the case against Paterson.

    Paterson has denied all claims and hasn't been charged with a crime. He has declined comment, saying he didn't want to interfere with the investigations he said will exonerate him.

    Wells didn't respond to a request for comment. Paterson declined comment.

    Wells wrote that the investigation was flawed and rushed, apparently to capitalize on unsubstantiated reports that Paterson was considering resigning because of another scandal. The commission released its report March 3, a day after it interviewed its critical witness, Paterson's communications director, who resigned days later.

    Former ethics commission Executive Director David Grandeau previously told The Associated Press days later that he felt the commission's report was flawed because it didn't interview a key figure, Johnson, the former aide to Paterson who handled much of the Yankee ticket issue. Grandeau had said the commission appeared to rush the report to deliver a coup de gras on Paterson before he resigned.

    Commission spokesman Walter Ayres told the AP that the commission has recently been in contact with Johnson's attorney and Johnson is expected to testify "shortly."

    Cherkasky said in a statement issued Tuesday that Johnson was subpoenaed, but failed to show up.